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Nebraska Baseball: Weekend Preview at Sam Houston

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Baseball is back! The Cornhuskers open their 2022 season as the favorites in the Big Ten. The Huskers will kick things off in Huntsville this weekend against Sam Houston.

Jon Johnston

Series Preview:

Date: 18th - 20th

Time: March 18th (Fri.) @ 6:30 p.m, March 19th (Sat.) @ 2:00 p.m & 5:30, March 20th (Sun) @ 1:00 p.m

Location: Elliott T. Bowers Stadium, Huntsville, Texas

Record(s): Nebraska ((34-14) in 2021) Sam Houston ((30-25) in 2021)

Head Coach(s): Will Bolt & Jay Sirianni

Stream: BTN+, ESPN+ (Game 1)

Radio: Husker Sports Network

Husker baseball is finally back. After a 31-14 finish in 2021 that saw the Cornhuskers comfortably win the Big Ten, the Huskers saw their season come to a disappointing end in the Fayetteville regional against the #1 seed Arkansas. Will Bolt enters the 2022 campaign hungry to get back to a regional and ultimately, Omaha. In typical Nebraska fashion, reserved season tickets have already sold out at Haymarket Park. The Huskers also enter the season ranked 20th in the country by Baseball America and Vegas has them as a favorite to host a regional this spring. After another disappointing stretch in football and basketball (thank you women’s basketball, bowling, and volleyball team), Nebraska fans hold the baseball team’s lofty expectations in high regard and are chomping at the bit to see a men’s sport win some games.

Head Coach Will Bolt is confident in his team entering the season even after the departures of stars like SS/CP Spencer Schwellenbach (Braves), SP Cade Povich (Twins), RP Cam Wynne (Phillies) to the draft. The Huskers also saw the departure of graduating seniors CF Jaxon Hallmark (Undrafted, Astros), OF Mojo Hagge, RF Joe Acker, C/1B Luke Roskam, OF Logan Foster, SP Chance Hroch, C Gunnar Hellstrom, and RP Max Schreiber.

Nebraska has several starting holes in their lineup to fill but they return several players who are more than ready to fill in for those players, as well as one of the top recruiting classes in the country. The offense will be lead by the #11 ranked Sophomore in the country Max Anderson, I’m not going to waste your time and explain who he is and just assume you already are aware at the production Anderson can provide to a lineup. Senior catcher and captain Griffin Everett will be another returning bat that should see the majority of the time behind the plate. Cam Chick was also named a captain this year and should see most of his time in left field and will continue to provide a steady bat to the lineup. Brice Matthews will slide to shortstop and make way for freshman Core Jackson, one of the best recruits to come out of Canada and is expected to provide similar offense to Max Anderson’s freshman campaign. Nebraska by no means will lack offensive talent this year, it will be a matter of the Huskers playing up to their potential.

The Husker rotation will be lead by Kyle Perry. The Senior lefty will be back after missing most of the 2021 campaign and will be the Huskers Friday night starter. Behind him on Saturday will be Grand Island native Shay Schanaman, coming off of a 5-2 season with a 5.08 ERA with his impressive slider-cutter combo. The two co-captains have been as reliable as any in their Husker careers and will be followed up on Saturday by Grand Canyon grad-transfer Drew McCarville. McCarville brings over an impressive 3.82 career ERA in 85 23 innings. Braxton Bragg will round out the weekend on Sunday, a solid arm for the Huskers in the past.

The bullpen will be rounded out by the return of hard throwing 6’5 225 LB right hander, Colby Gomes. Gomes looks to fill the shoes of star closer Spencer Schwellenbach. The highly touted Freshman Drew Christo brings his 90+ mph fastball to the table and waits to see what his role will be. Players like Jake Bunz and Koty Frank also should get some starts here and there. Emmett Olson, Caleb Feekin, transfer Mason Ornelas, and Braxton Bragg are expected to eat some quality innings as well out of the pen and there are a variety of newcomers that should see some innings early on as well.

Sam Houston Bearkats:

March 18th: vs. Sam Houston 6:40pm cst

March 19th: vs. Sam Houston 2pm & 5:30 cst

March 20th: vs. Sam Houston 1pm cst

Sam Houston finished last year with a 30-25 record and lost the Southland Conference championship to Mcneese by a score of 2-1. They enter this season as a member of the MAC and are the projected #2 seed in their conference. Sam Houston will be returning a total of 21 players from last year’s team and they are looking to build to the excitement of joining a new conference.

The Bearkats return 13 pitchers and are also lead by two seniors in Taylor Davis and Lance Lusk. Davis lead the team in several categories last year including innings pitched (76.2) and wins (6) and set a career strikeout record with 53 strikeouts. Davis is effective on the mound but has shown he can be hit for damage at times, especially later in games as the ball begins to stay up in the zone a bit more with an ERA of 5.75. Lusk is the #16th ranked draft prospect in the Western Athletic Conference and comes in with a career 3.49 ERA in 27 appearances. Houston native Matt Dillard will be a highly called on lefty for the ‘Kats this season as well in his Junior campaign. 2021 team leader in ERA (2.72), Coltin Atkinson will be a common occurrence on the mound as well.

Offensively the Bearkats lose both of their best players to the MLB Draft Colton Cowser (Orioles) & Jack Rogers (Reds). Both players leave some big holes to fill in their lineup as Sam Houston looks for more production from younger players. Sophomore Clayton Chadwick is one of those people. In his Freshman campaign he hit .275 in just 109 at bats. They have a ton of question marks in their lineup mostly in experience, but they added 5 JUCO transfers this offseason who should see some time. For the Bearkats, the key will be figuring out which newcomers will step up and provide production offensively.

Verdict:

I think casual fans look at Sam Houston and scoff them off as some small school team the Huskers should steamroll. Historically, Sam Houston is not one of those teams and I think that there will certainly be some competitive baseball played this weekend. Both teams are looking to see what their young players can produce but ultimately I think Nebraska has more experience and is far more complete as a team. The power offense and lights out pitching will be too much for Sam Houston as they look to discover who their offense will be, Nebraska is a tough team to try and figure that out against though.

Prediction: Huskers go 4-0 on the weekend.